'Safety here seemingly not important': Third explosion in Antwerp this week

'Safety here seemingly not important': Third explosion in Antwerp this week
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Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever stated that it seems as if Belgium's politicians do not care about the safety in his city, after a house was damaged in what was already the third attack this week.

Last night, the Antwerp district of Borgerhout was startled by an explosion in Ledeganckstraat: an enormous bang was heard around 04:00 and caused considerable damage to the front of the house in question.

The police, the demining service and the lab of the federal judicial police came to the scene to investigate. The street was closed off near the damaged house.

Earlier this week, an apartment building in the Generaal de Wetstraat, also in Borgerhout, was targeted two nights in a row – last week, a house in the Volkstraat in the southern area of the city and an apartment building on the Turnhoutsebaan in the Deurne district were targeted.

The attacks are thought to be linked to conflicts in the international cocaine smuggling environment.

'I see the fear in my neighbours'

There is an urgent need for more police on the streets to prevent the violence from continuing to increase, according to district mayor Marij Preneel. "It is particularly frightening for the people of Borgerhout. People are really starting to feel unsafe in their homes and their streets," she said on local radio.

The current approach to Antwerp's so-called "war on drugs" is ineffective, said Preneel. "It is an international problem. We need to think hard about the whole approach to the drugs problem, but that is food for criminologists. I see what happens in the neighbourhoods and I see the fear in my neighbours and in myself."

"I think that work is needed to create a police force that is approachable, the neighbourhood policeman of old who knows the neighbourhood inside out and is on the move by bike or on foot," she said. "But the city council has just dismantled that."

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Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever, in turn, pointed to the federal level. "This wave of attacks has been going on for several months now. As always, the public prosecutor's office and the federal judicial police conduct an investigation, and the local police offer them all the support that may be necessary or useful."

He repeated that the public prosecutor's office and the federal judicial police are fighting "an unfair battle" because of a serious lack of people and resources. "Contrary to what ministers claim, the malaise in the field has never been greater in the federal police. The Federal Government does not see organised crime as a priority."

Additionally, De Wever said that federal ministers continue to dismiss the problem as an Antwerp phenomenon. "And that is not only a slap in the face of all the people who work in the field every day to protect our society and fight organised crime. It is also a clear message that the safety of our city does not matter to the politicians based in Brussels."

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